Cuba History Timeline Events
May 19, 1957
On or about 19 May, Corinthia, a small ship of US-registry, left Florida’s Biscayne Bay headed for Cuba on a Prío-financed revolutionary expedition. The expeditionary force, led by Calixto Sánchez White, aimed to open a second front against Batista in the Sierra Cristal. Before joining the expedition Sánchez had been a pilot for Cubana Airlines and the President of the Cuban Pilots Association (Asociación de Pilotos Aviadores Profesionales de Cuba, APAP/CTC).
The Corinthia invasion ended in most of the 27 Aunténtico expeditionaries killed by Batista forces soon after their landing on 23 May at Cabonico (near Mayarí in north Oriente). A Cabonico man spotted the invasion force and tipped off the State Police (Guardia Rural) barracks in Mayarí, which immediately dispatched men to engage the landing force, and notified other commands including the Army garrison in Holguin commanded by Col. Fermin Cowley. Batista’s intelligence services were well-informed about the plan, down to a full list of the expeditionaries whose names they released to the press in announcing the defeat of the landing force, accurately reporting the size of the expeditionary force and casualties.
Although it is settled that the landing force consisted of 27 men, over 50 years later many other details about the Corinthia expedition remain elusive, uncertain and contentious. Conflicts persist in reports concerning the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the expeditionaries. Confusion about the event details began at landing, as rebels circulated disinformation grossly exaggerating the size of the landing force and claiming that most had survived and had joined rebel fighters. Sympathetic press coverage suggested Castro’s disinformation had equal (or greater) credibility than the government public report on the incident. For example, the New York Times reported:
According to Cuban Army headquarters, Government troops [in Oriente] clashed for the first time with insurgents who had landed from a yacht last Friday.
Sixteen rebels were killed in the battle, an announcement said. [...]
The Batista Government said only twenty-seven rebels had landed from the eighty-foot yacht Corinthia in the secluded bay of Carbonico. The army reported five had been captured.
Reports from Oriente, however, put the number of attackers at 150. They have split up into groups of fifty each and are armed with rifles equipped with telescopic sights and with machine guns, according to the stories told by residents of the area who say they have seen them.